2010 Pangea Photos

Here are some of the photos we got back from the 2010 Pangea culture festival. Thank you Greg for the photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010 – A year in review at the Moorhead Dojo

Looking back in the year at our dojo, I would have to say it was a pretty good one – for several reasons:

We increased our “consistent” membership from three members to eight. It’s pretty neat for me to see everyone on the line in their white hakamas doing suburi in sync – very cool! I have a good feeling about this group – everyone seems to be grasping the concepts of iaido and making the art personal for them. That’s one of the great joys for me in teaching, is seeing students start to “get it” and not only progress in their technique, but also in their spirit as well.

Continuing members Paul, Kelly, and Bert were joined by Joey, Molly, Erik, Tyler, and Greg. Welcome all!

We increased our public exposure of the dojo and iaido in general through performing several public demonstrations. We attended or presented at:

  • Core Con
  • Red River Valley Fair
  • Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit
  • Pangea Culture festival

If possible, we’ll attend all of these again in 2011 and also will be hosting our own Midwest Kendo Federation sponsored kendo / iaido seminar sometime this summer. That’s going to be big and exciting!

We held our first tameshigiri (test cutting) class. All members of the dojo were able to cut several targets of rolled tatami mats. It was a great learning experience, and I think they could better understand why we stress the things we do about grip, stance, and our swings. I hope to be able to continue this again in 2011.

I personally had a chance to go to Guelph, Ontario in the spring to attend their annual iaido / jodo seminar. It was quite an excellent refresher, and we had an impressive lineup of sensei from all around the world to work with us. Presenting was Chihiro Kishimoto, a hanshi hachidan in iaido and also the chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR) iaido committee. He brought with him, Atsumi Hatakenaka, kyoshi nanadan, and Fumio Tsubaki, kyoshi nanadan. Canadian sensei included Goyo Ohmi, renshi nanadan, Stephen Cruise, renshi nanadan, and Kim Taylor, renshi nanadan. I spent three days from 9 to 5 practicing seitei iaido with the “testing” group, and was able to receive some personal attention and comments from Kishimoto sensei. We learned some good ki-ken-tai-ichi drills that I’ve started my own students on, and a few basic changes to the seitei kata. I got to spend a bit of time with Cruise sensei reviewing some Musoshindenryu, and comparing some of the differences in our styles. It was a great seminar!

Looking forward to 2011 makes me excited for a couple of things.

First, possibly the chance to test for 5dan at either Guelph or the AUSKF summer camp. I know that I have a lot of reviewing to do of my own seitei, but what makes me most nervous is performing my first test in North America. Up to now, I’ve only had experience testing in Japan, so I’m not sure what to expect. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend the summer camp yet, and I’m really looking forward to heading to Cleveland in June for that. Hopefully Yamazaki sensei from Shizuoka will be attending again this year – I’d love to say hi and catch up with him again. Mr. Yamazaki was our Tobu region kind of lead sensei at my former dojo in Numazu, Japan. He and several other high-ranking sensei came to our dojo every month to lead in a practice and give us a review and pointers on seitei iai.

Also, I’m looking forward to hosting our first iaido seminar here in Fargo-Moorhead. I’m working with the MWKF to get some higher ranked sensei in for instruction in iaido and maybe a bit of kendo as well. It will likely be a two day weekend event with some Friday evening kendo keiko mixed in. It would be great to get some national or even international attendees if we can.

I also look forward to seeing some of my own students start to progress to the level where they may be able to attend some of these events, and test for their dan ranks as well. I would really like to see some representation by Moorhead Dojo members at these regional and national events!

It’s going to be an exciting year!
Brad

Tameshigiri – a great experience for everyone

Last class we had our first experience with tameshigiri, or test cutting with a live blade.

We ordered 80 mats with the money we received from the demo we did this fall, and over the last few weeks, we’ve been practicing the different “cuts” used in tameshigiri. During our breaks, we rolled the targets from the mats – mostly single mats, along with one double-mat target for each member to try. We had to soak them in water for over 24 hours, and then let them drip dry for another 6 or so. It was a lot of work in preparation, but it made for a good cutting session.

One of the things we learned is that we need to cut the same as we do in our iaido class. The movement of the kissaki through the air and the slicing motion of the blade is what cuts the mat, not strength. Tenouchi and using hara in our cut is very important as well.

Members of all experience levels were able to cut successfully, and I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction as each of the members made at least one perfect cut.

Student Joey put together a holiday greetings video with some of our cuts. It’s pretty funny, and you can see it below.

We’ll be putting more links up with everyone’s favorite cuts.

Good work everyone!

Brad

December Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News
Happy Holidays!

I hope this newsletter finds you warm and comfy and ready to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

Dojo News: Tameshigiri – our first attempt!

We’ll be trying tameshigiri (test cutting) for the first time tomorrow (the 22nd). We take rolled up tatami (reed) mats, soak them in water for at least 24 hours, let them drip for another 6 or so, and then cut them with a shinken (sharp sword). For the last few weeks, the members have been practicing the specialized cuts they’re going to attempt. It involves v-shaped cuts from above, and also below and some horizontal cuts too. Of course safety is our first priority, and we’ve been covering that as well.

If a person cuts well, the “cut” portion of the mat may actually not fall off for a second or two, giving the person a chance to make another cut on that piece. I’ve seen some video of this (check our blog for some Youtube) and it’s pretty amazing. Some even attempt 2 cuts on the portion that’s still standing.
Guests are welcome to come and watch – we should be finished with our warmups and ready to begin around 7pm on Wednesday at the dojo.
 
Rank Testing
We’ll be tentatively testing some members for rank on Wednesday, January 19th. We should have two candidates for 2-kyu, and 3 or 4 for 4-kyu. The ranking system starts at 4kyu, then progresses up. 4kyu, 3kyu, 2kyu, Shodan (equivalent to the American “black belt”), 2dan, 3dan, etc. The highest that I can test members for rank in our dojo is 2kyu, and after that they need to go to either a regional or national US Kendo Association approved event. Fortunately, there are a few in both the US and Canada where we can do this. I myself hope to take (and pass) my 5dan test sometime this year.
 
Moorhead Dojo Iaido/kendo seminar and keiko
I’m working with the Midwest Kendo Federation on hosting an annual (hopefully) iaido seminar and kendo keiko event. It would consist of a Friday evening kendo keiko for the early arrivals, Saturday morning iaido seminar, noon kendo keiko, and then afternoon iaido again until 5pm or so. Saturday evening dinner, and then a Sunday morning iaido session until around noon. It would have focus for kendo people interested in learning iaido, as well as current iaido practitioners. We hope to have at least one or two high ranked sensei come in (courtesy of the US Kendo Federation) and present/teach. If the turnout is good, we can make this an annual event and (hopefully) get the appropriate funding from the kendo federation as well.
I’m VERY excited about this, and am hoping to find a good venue somewhere in the FM area to host this. We need a place with at least 11 foot ceilings, and hopefully a wood or tile floor. We would need that for both Saturday all day and Sunday to early afternoon. If anybody has any ideas, please PM me.
 
General Calendar of Events
This is a general list of iaido-related events that we can look forward to.
May – Kim Taylor’s annual iaido/jodo seminar in Guelph, ON. Excellent seminar! Opportunity to test for rank. (2-4 days)
June – Annual AUSKF (US Kendo Federation) summer camp. 2011 will be in Cleveland. Excellent seminar and an opportunity to test for rank. (3-4 days)
July – Red River Valley fair. Not completely sure if we are going to be there again, but I hope to be able to give at least one demo on their side stage.
Sometime July to September – Our FIRST and hopefully Annual Moorhead Dojo kendo/iaido seminar and keiko. This is going to be big! (2 days) See notes above.
October – Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer benefit. This will be our 3rd annual. Lots of schools and styles will be there! (2 days)
October – Thunder Bay iaido seminar. Usually 2 days, and good content! Within driving distance.
November – Possibly a demo at the Japan Club event.
November – Pangea culture festival (demo).
Well, that’s about it for now. I wish everyone a happy and healthy holidays.
Merry Christmas!
Brad
 

Yagyu Shinkage ryu kenjutsu

This one is of a very unique style – Yagyu Shinkage ryu. Kenjutsu, unlike iaido, starts with the sword (or in this case bokuto) out of the saya. The techniques are usually done in pairs, and involve strikes and counter-strikes at full speed and intensity.

Pretty good kendo and an interesting kiai!

Here’s a good find that was referenced in Kendo World. Note the experience and intensity of the first three that go against the sensei, and then note the change that’s evident once that sensei goes against someone who’s also very experienced. The new sensei enters around 6:45.
Enjoy!

Pangea Festival a Success!

Pangea Cultural Festival Demonstration

I’d like to thank everyone that came by the booth and said hello on Saturday at the festival. We gave out about 135 passport (Japan) stickers to people, and spoke with many more. I’m not sure the final numbers for festival attendance, but there was a pretty steady stream of people all day.
A very special thank you and “otsukaresamadeshita” goes to Bert, Joey, Erik, and Molly for participating in the demonstration and helping out at the booth. I really appreciate your dedication and attendance! Performing your kata in front of other people can be very nerve-wracking, and you all did an excellent job!
I don’t think we scared too many people, though we did get a few “wide” eyes from the girls in the front row as we performed.
Several people submitted their names, and we gave away five coupons for a month’s free lesson, and three t-shirts. I’ll be contacting the t-shirt and lesson winners shortly.

Tameshigiri – Test Cutting

Bert and I are researching places to get mats for tameshigiri. We’ll be trying that for the first time here just as soon as we can get a decent price and the mats ordered. Once the mats are here, we’ll need to soak them for a couple of days in some water. The mats, when rolled, are between 3 and 4 feet long, and we’ll need something to completely submerge them in. Do any of the members have a 55 gal drum or available bath tub they wouldn’t mind using for this purpose? Once the mats have soaked for about 2 days, we’ll let them drip for another day before cutting. They should be good and saturated, but not dripping wet.
Again, safety is first, so we’ll be practicing the swings and techniques in practices prior to the event. Should be a lot of fun! I had previously posted some Youtube links on the blog. Check them out for examples of tameshigiri.

New Faces in the Dojo

We’ve gotten a few new faces the last few months. Welcome to Tyler, Josh, Russell, and Gary. We’re glad to have you join us!

That’s about it, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Brad

Membership is important

Membership is important. By that, I mean not only becoming a member of a dojo to practice and study with an actual sensei, but also joining your regional (and national) martial arts associations.

There are a lot of people out there who may not have access to a sensei or school in the style that they wish to study. For example, I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of kenjutsu schools and classes available in Central North Dakota. So what do those people do if they really want to study? Buy books and watch videos? You Tube?
I think that while these may be good sources for review, it’s pretty difficult for anyone to truly learn from this kind of media. The personal attention, small corrections in stance, hand work, and basic techniques can only be truly learnt from your sensei and constant monitoring / corrections.
Being a member of a dojo also brings other benefits as well. You’re part of a community of people (friends) who have a common interest (dare I say passion?) for something, and can support each other.
In my dojo, I am using the “senpai – kohai” philosophy that is common in not only martial arts, but education and work practices throughout Japan. The senior “senpai” assists and takes responsibility for their junior “kohai” during practice. If they notice some aspect of the kohai’s stance, technique, or etiquette that needs correction, they will assist in that. Kohai are encouraged to ask their senpai any simple questions that can be easily answered and are not necessary to go to the sensei about. Of course, as head instructor, I encourage anyone to come to me any time with their questions, but sometimes students can ask very simple things of their senpai and get a quicker answer if I’m tied up with another group.
So how do people who want to study and not have access to a dojo or instructor go about receiving instruction? That’s a hard one to answer. I know people in Japan who sometimes traveled for an hour or two on the train to get to their dojo, practiced for a couple of hours, and then rode back again. It wasn’t uncommon to see them do that twice a week. They were dedicated, and the commute wasn’t an issue.

I know the first place I’d look to see if there was anybody qualified to teach kendo or iaido would be the All US Kendo Federation web site. There’s a comprehensive list of dojo by region in there along with the contact information. There are also links to the regional sites as well. Our dojo is a member of the Midwest Kendo Federation. By going through these associations, you are guaranteed to receive quality instruction from a legitimate sensei.

Another option if you are unable to attend a dojo, would be to contact the closest dojo’s head instructor and inquire about private lessons, or possibly meeting at a midpoint somewhere on a weekly basis. It may be possible that an instructor would come halfway if there were a guaranteed number of students available to teach. Just a thought.

I encourage anyone interested in studying martial arts to go and shop around for dojo. Not all are the same – and not all instructors are the same or even the best qualified to teach. It seems in some systems that all you need is a “black belt” to open your own school. I wouldn’t settle for that, and serious practitioners shouldn’t either. Getting your black belt means simply that you’ve put in enough time to begin seriously studying.

Good luck, and remember membership IS important.